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Understanding and assessing word comprehension

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 April 2015

Rhode Island College
Rhode Island College
Rhode Island College
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Beverly A. Goldfield, Department of Psychology, Rhode Island College, 600 Mt. Pleasant Avenue, Providence, RI 02908. E-mail:


The intermodal preferential looking (IPL) task was developed to assess comprehension in infants and toddlers. We extend this methodology to examine word comprehension in preschool children using two measures: proportion of looking time to target (LTT) and longest look (LL) to target. Children (3–6 years) were tested with the IPL for comprehension of nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Both LTT and LL scores showed that, across all ages, eye gaze to the target word increased from baseline to test; there were higher scores for nouns compared to verbs and adjectives. We also compare IPL performance to scores on a standardized test of receptive vocabulary (the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—Fourth Edition). Correlations with Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test scores were stronger for LTT than LL measures. The IPL may provide an alternative method for assessing word comprehension in preschool children with behavioral limitations.

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